City Council to create citizens advisory committee for Del Mar’s design review process

Acknowledging the community’s concerns about the city’s design review process, the Del Mar City Council on May 18 further opened the process to the public.

In a 3-0 vote, council members established a citizens advisory committee to provide input on Del Mar’s design review process. The process is intended to preserve and protect the community character.

“Once you understand a problem and you understand what’s contributing to the problem, you can move toward solutions and recommendations,” said Councilman Terry Sinnott.

Before the vote, 15 community members addressed the council, all in favor of the proposed committee. Several others submitted slips in favor, but chose not to speak. The council also received three letters on the issue before the meeting.

“There is enormous community interest and community support for this,” said resident Anne Farrell, who sat on the city’s design review board for four years about 20 years ago.

“I know these ordinances well. I lived and breathed them in that job,” she said. “But I do believe it’s time for us to take a look again.”

Added resident Linda Rock, “Even if something’s a great product, it never hurts to evaluate it from time to time and learn what you would like to change to improve it. Times change, lifestyles change, our population shifts.”

Some speakers asked to be more involved in the process because they have concerns about the size and scale of new homes in Del Mar. Other speakers stressed the need for a fair and objective design review process. All speakers emphasized that the committee represent the entire community.

“I’ve seen things change, but I also realize change happens and change can be good,” said Delores Davies Jamison, who has lived in Del Mar for about 25 years. “What we want to do is really shape that change so that it blends in and harmonizes with our community.

“It’s clearly a situation where the process is not working for the applicant so well, and it’s not working for the residents,” she added. “It needs to work for all parties, to the extent that it can. It also needs to really reflect Del Mar and the kind of development we want to encourage in this community.”

Community members initially expressed their dissatisfaction with the city’s design review process in a citizen satisfaction survey conducted Nov. 20 through Jan. 12.

When the council engaged advisory committees in its Feb. 3 council priorities workshop, residents also listed evaluating the design review process among their goals. Members of the public again expressed concerns with the design review process and residential development when the council discussed its priorities at the April 20 meeting.

After meeting with community members, Deputy Mayor Sherryl Parks and Sinnott proposed establishing a citizen task force to review the city’s design review ordinance, as well as planning procedures to ensure that new homes comply with the community plan.

Their colleagues agreed at the May 4 meeting, when the council decided evaluating the city’s design review process should be a top-priority project. Community members also welcomed the idea of a citizens advisory committee.

At the May 18 meeting, the council established a nine-member committee that will consist of five members of the public; a former member of the design review board; a former member of the planning commission; a property owner who has gone through the design review process within the past 18 months; and a professional architect or land-use planner who represented an applicant through the process within the past 18 months.

The committee will be asked to identify issues, goals and solutions for the design review process, including possible amendments to city code or procedures.

Council members asked that the committee first develop a work plan with a timeline.

The city will advertise for candidates for at least 10 days.

Two council members will serve as liaisons to the committee. Parks suggested Dwight and Councilman Don Mosier, but council members decided to make the appointments when the full council is in attendance. Mayor Al Corti and Mosier were absent from the meeting.

“I think this is a very worthwhile effort,” said Councilman Dwight Worden. “I hope all of you who have interest will apply, if you think you can. I’d love to be inundated with quality applications and really be able to choose quality, talented, committed people — and have that balance on this task force that people have talked about.”